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Salicornia europaea (Common Glasswort)
Salicornia europaea (Common Glasswort) is an annual succulent with much-branched and fleshy stems that grow up to 16 inches (40 cm) tall…
Common Glasswort is a lovely small succulent herb that can definitely give your garden a coastal vibe. If you are a fan of water gardens or coastal landscaping, and the climate and conditions in your area allow it, this succulent is going to be a great addition.
It is also delicious food and has plenty of culinary uses, so you can always incorporate it in your dishes as a garnish for fish or meat.
While it can be more difficult to grow, if you do your best to provide your Common Glasswort with its most basic growing requirements, it should thrive. Also, next time you find yourself stranded on an island, know that you can safely eat Salicornia Europaea.
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Glasswort, (genus Salicornia), also called pickleweed, genus of about 30 species of annual succulent herbs in the amaranth family (Amaranthaceae). Native to salt marshes and beaches around the world, glassworts are halophytic plants that accumulate salts in their leaves and stems as an adaptation to their saline habitats. The ashes of dried, burnt glassworts contain large amounts of potash and were formerly used in glassmaking. Several species, including samphire (Salicornia europaea) and umari keerai (S. brachiata), are edible and can be eaten raw or cooked.
Glasswort plants are typically small and feature jointed bright green stems that turn red or purple in the fall. The reduced leaves are minute and scalelike, and the bisexual flowers produce small fleshy fruits with a single seed.
This article was most recently revised and updated by Melissa Petruzzello, Assistant Editor.
The ashes of glasswort plants, and also of their Mediterranean counterpart saltwort plants, yield soda ash, which is an important ingredient for glassmaking and soapmaking. Soda ash is an alkali whose active ingredient is now known to be sodium carbonate. Glasswort and saltwort plants sequester the sodium they absorb from salt water into their tissues (see Salsola soda). Ashing of the plants converts some of this sodium into sodium carbonate (or "soda", in one of the old uses of the term). [ citation needed ]
In the medieval and early post-medieval centuries, various glasswort plants were collected at tidal marshes and other saline places in the Mediterranean region. The collected plants were burned. The resulting ashes were mixed with water. Sodium carbonate is soluble in water. Non-soluble components of the ashes sank to the bottom of the water container. The water with the sodium carbonate dissolved in it was then transferred to another container, and then the water was evaporated off, leaving behind the sodium carbonate. Another major component of the ashes that is soluble in water is potassium carbonate, a.k.a. potash. The resulting product consisted mainly of a mixture of sodium carbonate and potassium carbonate. This product was called "soda ash" (it was also called "alkali"). It contained 20% to 30% sodium carbonate. For glassmaking, it was superior to a potash product obtained by the same procedure from the ashes of non-salty plants. If plant ashes were not washed as just described, they were still usable in glassmaking but the results were not as good. [ citation needed ]
The appearance of the word glasswort in English is reasonably contemporaneous with a 16th-century resurgence in English glassmaking, which had suffered a long decline after Roman times.   This resurgence was led by glassmakers who emigrated to England from Lorraine and from Venice. The Lorraine glassmakers brought with them the technology of forest glass, the greenish glass that used potash from wood ashes as a flux. The Venetian glassmakers brought with them the technology of cristallo, the immaculately clear glass that used soda ash as a flux. These glassmakers would have recognized Salicornia europaea growing in England as a source for soda ash. Prior to their arrival, it was said that the plant "hath no name in English". 
By the 18th century, Spain had an enormous industry producing soda ash from saltworts the soda ash from this source was known as barrilla.  Scotland had a large 18th-century industry producing soda ash from seaweed. The source of this ash was kelp. This industry was so lucrative that it led to overpopulation in the Western Isles of Scotland, and one estimate is that 100,000 people were occupied with "kelping" during the summer months.  In the same period, soda ash (la soude de Narbonne) was produced in quantity from glasswort proper around Narbonne, France.   The commercialization of the Leblanc process for synthesizing sodium carbonate (from salt, limestone, and sulfuric acid) brought an end to the era of farming for soda ash in the first half of the 19th century. [ citation needed ]
Young shoots of Salicornia europaea are tender and can be eaten raw as a salad: Glasswort salad or samphire salad (Turkish: Deniz börülcesi salatası). This salad is a part of Turkish cuisine, also made with lemon juice, olive oil  and garlic.   It is commonly served as a meze. [ citation needed ]
The plant can further be prepared in several ways – cooked, steamed, or stir fried – and eaten as a vegetable dish. 
Plants that have been called glassworts include:
- Arthrocnemum subterminale (Parish's glasswort)
- Eriogonum salicornioides (glasswort buckwheat)
- Species in the genusSalicornia (glasswort or jointed glasswort):
- Salicornia bigelovii (dwarf glasswort)
- Salicornia europaea (common glasswort or marsh samphire)
- Salicornia maritima (slender glasswort)
- Salicornia ramosissima (purple glasswort)
- Salicornia virginica (American, Virginia or woody glasswort)
- Salsola kali (prickly glasswort)
- Sarcocornia blackiana (thick-head glasswort)
- Sarcocornia pacifica (Pacific glasswort)
- Sarcocornia perennis (perennial glasswort)
- Sarcocornia quinqueflora (beaded glasswort)
- Tecticornia arbuscula (shrubby glasswort)
- Tecticornia flabelliformis (bead glasswort)
- Tecticornia pergranulata (blackseed glasswort)
Salicornia Species, Common Glasswort
Drought-tolerant suitable for xeriscaping
Average Water Needs Water regularly do not overwater
Requires consistently moist soil do not let dry out between waterings
Very high moisture needs suitable for bogs and water gardens
Where to Grow:
Soil pH requirements:
On Mar 3, 2018, janelp_lee from Toronto, ON (Zone 6a) wrote:
I have found there is a supermarket near me do carry 100g packet in produce isle! I bought one just being curious, the taste of it is rather salty. I guess they should be eaten with other food.
I have picked few are firmer and thicker ones to grow, it will be fun to find out how long or whether they will root or not. In theory they can be propagated by cuttings.
It is actually an annual, not perennial!
On Apr 11, 2012, soul_surfer from Spokane Valley, WA (Zone 5b) wrote:
Thank you Sharilou for posting the link to 'victoriana' in the UK. They have a nice selection of several interesting and hard to find plants, but it turns out that they're not very helpful since they refuse to send even seeds outside the UK (not that I blame them mind you, but all the same again it's of little use to the rest of us).
There's apparently a firm in the NL that will wholesale this delicious but generally unknown culinary plant (outside N. Europe) but at a very steep price, so in essence there seems to be no reliable source outside of the UK, NL and other parts of the EU for now.
Hopefully that could change someday though, especially if chefs (& the rest of us) in the US & Canada get turned on to this prized and trendy culinary treat (that also yi. read more elds a nice price on menus in many parts of the EU each spring & early summer).
Incidentally, the less 'common names' for this plant that are listed here on DG (i.e., '. glasswort' and 'Poor man's. ') is no doubt off-putting, but unfairly so for more than one reason. To start with, the more common name for this plant (in addition to being known as "Samphire" in the UK) is "Sea Asparagus", which is what it is widely known as throughout N. Europe. That's understandable since this delicacy looks like tiny asparagus spears yet tastes even better. It also comes as no surprise that Sea Asparagus perfectly compliments and enhances almost any seafood dish. It also helps to turn ordinary ho-hum fare into a gourmet treat with no more effort than it takes to prepare asparagus.
On Sep 9, 2011, Sherilou from Panhandle Gulf Coast, FL (Zone 8b) wrote: